Successful retailers develop a comprehensive strategy and execute it based on the plan. Independent hardware stores and home centers are unique businesses catering to specific customer segments. Owners have no desire to operate scaled-down versions of Walmart or Home Depot—they are proud to be authentically different. Thriving businesses should continually look for growth opportunities, even when the path is a little rocky. It’s essential to periodically “refresh” your business and update employee training to be relevant in today’s shifting retail environment. Being customer-focused must be a priority for stores that want to be the neighborhood’s “go-to” place for DIY home improvement projects. Pros are a more challenging sale since competing for their business can require investing additional resources to sustain the relationship.
Train Employees to be Customer Centric
Customers should be the focal point of all decisions made for the business. When achieved, the results will be exceptional delivery of products, services, and customer satisfaction. Owners and employees should work together to accomplish these goals. Employees are integral to the success of any business. The store is destined to succeed with the right people in place up front and behind the scenes, the store is destined to succeed. Staff must be well-trained and understand their role within the business. Since customers visit hardware stores to buy products and receive advice they can trust, store associates should also have people skills. Both you and your customers have high expectations. Employees should have the temperament and knowledge to meet specific requirements.
Stock Products that Make Sense in Your Market
While drought-resistant grass seeds are in high demand in California or Nevada, this type of seed may not be a hot commodity for a homeowner in the Midwest. Independent retailers have the flexibility to create successful businesses by offering unique assortments or selling products sold exclusively through the independent retail channel. Stocking many low-margin items found at big box stores is not a winning strategy. Identify the merchandise that makes sense to sell in your community that appeals to your customer base. Businesses in resort communities may opt to sell fishing gear and items that attract locals and tourists. Stores in neighborhoods with older homes might specialize in restoration hardware or high-end fixtures. The point is to sell products that are relatable to your customers.
Raise the Bar to Exceptional Service
Shoppers consider many factors before deciding where they will spend their hard-earned dollars. The minimum expectation for today’s customers is to receive quality products and good service. But retailers who raise the bar to the next level are the ones who will withstand the test of time. A prime example is Trevor True Value Hardware in Moline, Illinois. This 4th generation of business has served the community since 1887. In addition to being the hub for all things hardware, the store also offers small engine repairs, rental equipment, and cake decorating classes. Just as important, their outstanding service inspired hundreds of customers to post positive comments online and share their experiences.
Whether buying online or in-store, shoppers should feel good about the experience and be motivated to make a return visit. I’m sure you have also set a high bar for customer service. When you treat people well by delighting them with over-the-top service, they’re happy to share their experiences in person or online with others. According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, Americans tell an average of 11 people when they have a good experience. Shoppers are also willing to spend more. It’s especially true of millennials, who willingly spend twenty-one percent more for excellent service.
Family-owned businesses over 75 years old have survived recessions, business closures, and the pandemic. Circumstances beyond their control have taught them to be flexible and adapt to new situations. Most importantly, they have always retained sight of the customer and what is required of them to make every shopping experience exceptional.